Guillaume Apollinaire Biography

Wilhelm Albert W’odzimierz Apolinary de Kostrowicki (26 August 1880 – 1918).


Historically known as Guillaume Apollinaire, he was a European Writer, Novelist, Essayist and Poet, born in Italy and raised in France, listed as one of the most influential artists of the time that would precede the birth of the avant-gardes of early twentieth century, marking with his Poetry a point of transition between French symbolism and Romanticism.

Also belonging to the Dadaist movement and enthusiast of innovative art, he was the doer of the terms “surrealism” and “surrealist”, which would later be rescued by André Breton in his Surrealist Manifesto.

The highest representative of formalist experimentation, he became predecessor of Visual Poetry, dismantling the boundaries between the genres of painting and poetry.

Early life

Guillaume Apollinaire was born on August 26, 1880 in The city of Rome, Italy, becoming the son of a Polish woman of aristocratic descent and an unknown father, to whom some historians attribute the identity of Francesco d’Asprermont, Italian official, although other researchers have gone so far as to point out that this writer’s father may have been able to be a prince of the Catholic Church.

Together with his mother and brother, he grew up in Monaco, where he studied at the Lyceum Sant Charles. Likewise, you would have the opportunity to study at lycées located in Cannes and Nice. He then moved with his family to Paris, where he tried in vain to get a job. In 1901, he traveled to Germany, in order to assume the position of private teacher of the daughter of the Viscountess of Milhau.

Beginnings as a writer

In 1902 he returned to Paris, where he managed to employ himself as an accountant on the Stock Exchange. During this time he began to frequent the bohemian cafes and centers of the French capital, where he had the opportunity to meet and share with other artists, among them Georges Braque, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.

Likewise, at that time he began to excel in the art of writing. His first verses, written in 1897, already contain his poetic images concerning the universal feelings of anguish, melancholy, love, eroticism, nostalgia, which would also mark his Poetry, characterized by the constant search for new forms and images, which mark a transient point between French symbolism and Romanticism.

During his early years in Paris, he also served as a critic and columnist in several arts magazines, in which he advocated for new trends, such as Cubism, a movement to which he contributed the writing of his manifesto, entitled Los Cubist painters.

He also entered the publishing area, a field where he founded the magazine Le Festin d’Esope in 1903, and directed the publication in 1909 of The Masters of Love, a collection of erotic classics. She also served under the pseudonym Louise Lalane as a contributor to several publications, including Mercure de France, Les Merges and Paris-midi. In 1912 he also founded the magazine Les Soirées de Paris.

Major works and final years

In 1908 he published two erotic novels: The Eleven Thousand Cocks and The Exploits of a Young Don Juan. The following year he sees the light of his book The Charming in Rotfaction (1909) prose story, based on the legend of Merlin and Viviana. Two years later, in 1911, he published his poem The Bestiary or the Courtship of Orpheus, where he highlights his symbolist character and shows his experiments on form.

On 7 September of that year he was taken to prison, accused of being involved with Pablo Picasso of having stolen Leonardo Da Vinci’s La Gioconda. However, it was shown that the artists had not participated in the crime, being attributed to Vicenzo Peruggia. In 1913, Apollinaire finally achieved the recognition of literary criticism with his poem Alcoholes.

That same year, he published The Futuristic Antitradition, as well as his text The Cubist Painters, which was used as manifesto of this movement. In 1914 he published La Roma de los Borgia, and in 1916 the fantastic text The Murdered Poet.

After the outbreak of the First World War conflict, Guillaume Apollinaire enlisted as a volunteer in French troops, where he reached the rank of Lieutenant. However, on 17 March 1916 he was wounded by a shrapnel bullet to the head, which caused several consequences on his health.

During his recovery he wrote several of his most famous works, including his graphic verses, Caligrams, published in 1918. That same year, his surreal novels The Nipples of Tiresias and The Color of Time would also come to light. Likewise, in 1918, in May he married Jacqueline Kolb, a relationship that was interrupted by the death of this poet, which occurred on 9 November, because of the epidemic of Spanish influenza that was lashing Paris at the time.

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Image source: poest.org

Guillaume Apollinaire Biography
Source: Education  
August 14, 2019


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